Tales of human survival under dire circumstances never cease to capture our attention. Just last week, the world watched as one-by-one, the Chilean miners were brought up to the surface and reunited with their loved ones. Coincidentally, the miners' story of survival ended exactly thirty-eight years from the day another South American survival story was just beginning. History retells this tale in a new special called I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash.
Whether you were around in 1972 when the news broke that a group of rugby players had survived a plane crash and 72 days in the freezing cold Andes mountains, or you’ve seen the other documentaries, read the books or saw the movie Alive starring Ethan Hawke, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the story. On October 13, 1972, a charter plane carrying a rugby team and some of their friends and family was headed toward Chile when it crashed in the Andes mountains. 45 people were on the plane, only 16 survived the ordeal. It’s a fascinating story and one that’s sparked much discussion over the years not only because it can be considered a miracle that people could survive in sub-zero temperatures for more than two months with virtually no supplies and only a broken airplane fuselage as shelter, but also because the survivors had to eat the bodies of the dead in order to survive.
Directed by Brad Osborne, I Am Alive: Surviving The Andes Plane Crash retells the story, placing emphasis on Nando Parrado’s role in the ordeal, from the comatose state he was left in following the crash, to the loss of his mother and sister and, his brave trek out of the mountains in search of help. I Am Alive features personal accounts from Parrado and other survivors, including Robert Canessa, who was with Parrado when they climbed out of the mountains.
The documentary also includes various graphics that map out the flight, where the plane went down, and the route taken by Parrado and Canessa to get to Chile. There are also numerous reenactments and photographs to illustrate the story as well as brief interviews with the family and friends as they talk about their reactions to the news of the crash and later that there were survivors.
Finally, in addition to recapping and reenacting the event, the special provides a brief update on Perrado’s life and how the experience affected him afterward.
Whether or not this story is new to you, if you have an interest in survival tales, I Am Alive is definitely worth checking out. It should be said that the special does go into some detail on the subject of their food. The decision to eat the remains of the dead may be taboo, however it played a crucial role in their survival. It’s discussed by the survivors and shown in reenactments throughout the special. While many may be curious about that aspect of the story, it’s probably fair to say that some might not have the stomach for it.
Having read the Piers Paul Read book Alive and seen the movie, as well as the recent documentary film Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains, I’ve always found this story to be a strange blend fascinating, horrifying and inspirational. I Am Alive delivers a similar blend with this retelling of the story. History and AMS Pictures did a nice job with the special, and the contributions by the survivors and their friends update the story nicely. Much like the story itself, this special will probably have you asking yourself what you might have done if you were in the same situation.
I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash premieres Wednesday, October 20 at 9pm ET on HISTORY.